Songtradr CEO Hints at New Products After Acquiring Creative Music Agency MassiveMusic

Kiara Rodriguez
Kiara is an editorial intern at dot.LA. She has interned in communications at KCRW, assisted with economics research at Brookings Institution,and reported for local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a Yenching Scholar at Beijing University, researching the politics of international communications and leading the Yenching Academy’s podcast. She graduated from Princeton University in 2019 with a B.A. from the School of Public and International Affairs.
Songtradr's acquisition on Wednesday of creative music agency MassiveMusic marks the latest step in its quest to become the leading B2B music licensing marketplace.

MassiveMusic, which uses data analytics to help brands customize what sounds and songs to feature across media, has approximately 85 employees across offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. The company's list of clients includes Nike, Heineken, Apple and UEFA.

"MassiveMusic is the largest music agency working with brands and advertisers," said Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire. "There will be no redundant stakeholders during the acquisition process and very limited restructuring. It's very complementary from a structural point of view."

And the benefits go both ways, said Wiltshire.

"Acquisition of MassiveMusic will lay the groundwork for future tech products that we are rolling out, including one that will be released in the third quarter this year," said Wiltshire, who declined to speak about what exactly that tech will look like. "It will be able to create more visibility and efficiency, and it will be highly complementary to MassiveMusic's clients."

Songtradr raised $30 million in a Series C round last summer, and the Santa Monica-based startup has so far made four acquisitions in 2021. MassiveMusic is its largest to date.

With more than 1.5 million tracks on their platform, Songtradr says it has licensed over 300,000 tracks since it launched in 2014, ranking it among the largest music licensing platforms.

In 2019, it acquired Big Sync Music, and since gone on to acquire Cuesongs, Song Zu, Pretzel, Tunefind and made an investment into ASX listed music data company Jaxta.

"Our ambition is to be the largest B2B global music ecosystem and marketplace", Wiltshire said.The acquisition allows Songtradr to make use of MassiveMusic's extensive music library for their existing customers. It comes at a crucial moment in the industry, when musicians are increasingly embracing live streaming and short-form videos on new apps like TikTok.

As music streaming dramatically increases on new platforms, the music industry is expected to double in size to $131 billion by 2030.

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Flying Embers Raises $20 Million As Its Hard Kombucha, Hard Seltzer Goes National

Pat Maio
Pat Maio has held various reporting and editorial management positions over the past 25 years, having specialized in business and government reporting. He has held reporting jobs with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Dow Jones News and other newspapers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

One of the world’s largest producers of alcoholic beverages has led a $20 million funding round for Flying Embers, a Ventura-based brewery that is capitalizing on the growing popularity of hard kombucha and hard seltzer.

Chicago-based Beam Suntory, a division of Japanese brewing giant Suntory, spearheaded the Series C raise and was joined by Hermosa Beach-based PowerPlant Partners and Beverly Hills-based Monogram Capital Partners, as well as East Coast venture firms Beechwood Capital and Quadrant Capital.

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FitLab Raises $15 Million For Its ‘Hybrid Fitness’ Approach of Gyms and Home Classes

Harri Weber

Do you know something we should know about L.A. tech or venture capital? Reach out securely via Signal: +1 917 434 4978.

Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to harrison@dot.la.

Are in-person gyms or at-home workouts the future of the fitness industry?

While much hype surrounds the latter in the wake of the pandemic, FitLab is betting on both. The Newport Beach-based company announced that it has closed a Series A funding round that takes its total capital raised to more than $15 million. Its investors include Two Styx Capital, Cava Capital, Snoop Ventures, Paradigm Sports Management founder Audie Attar and M13 co-founder Courtney Reum.

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Parallel Systems Emerges From Stealth With $50 Million For Autonomous Electric Trains—But Will Its Plan Work?

David Shultz
David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Parallel Systems has big dreams for the future of railway freight operations, and it seems that the venture capital world has taken notice.

The Los Angeles-based transportation startup announced a $49.55 million Series A funding round as it emerged from stealth mode on Wednesday. The round was led by Anthos Capital, with additional investments from the likes of Congruent Ventures, Riot Ventures and Embark Ventures.

Comprised of former SpaceX, Google and Tesla engineers, Parallel Systems is aiming to develop autonomous and electric freight train cars that would make the American shipping industry greener and more efficient.

“We’ve been pretty quiet about what we’ve been doing,” Parallel Systems CEO Matt Soule, formerly the principal avionics engineer at SpaceX, told dot.LA. “Our website has been pretty barren.” Soule co-founded the company two years ago with fellow former SpaceX engineers John Howard and Ben Stabler. Including $3.6 million in seed funding, the startup has now raised more than $53 million to date.

Parallel Systems’ technology relies on replacing traditional diesel-powered locomotives with battery-powered freight cars. In its model, each train car is self-powered, and can break apart from or join together with other cars as needed. In theory, this ability to autonomously break apart and reassemble as needed would reduce the need for switching stations, where trains are reorganized and rerouted manually.

It could also drastically reduce the significant physical footprint of trains, converting them from two-mile-long behemoths into “platoons” of 20-to-50 cars that wouldn’t require massive terminals for loading and unloading. Smaller trains would be able to travel closer to their final destinations before being unloaded—reducing trucking emissions, which account for roughly 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., in the process.

“The opportunity we’ve been after is kind of decarbonizing freight from a new angle,” Soule said.

All of these ideas would be beneficial toward alleviating America’s clogged supply chains and reaching its ambitious carbon emission goals—if they were able to be integrated into America’s existing rail infrastructure. On that front, some experts are skeptical.

“My first instinct was that this looks like SpaceX engineers getting bored and working on something that they know nothing about,” Chris Caplice, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation & Logistics, told dot.LA. “They didn’t think about the larger system—whether it's regulatory, the network itself, the rail operations or the labor involved. I think they just found a technological solution to a problem they wanted to solve.”

Parallel Systems co-founders Ben Stabler, Matt Soule and John Howard.Image courtesy of Parallel Systems

Caplice worries that Parallel Systems’ technology fails to consider the realities of America’s existing rail network. Today, rail lines are divided into signal blocks, which can range from less than a mile to 15 miles long; these blocks are in fixed geographic positions, and only one train at a time is permitted into any signal block. For the new autonomous, single-car system to work, “you would have to put in thousands more control points in different places to get the network chopped down small enough to do this,” according to Dale Lewis, the former director of strategic analysis for CSX Transportation.

Even then, it likely still wouldn’t look like what Parallel Systems is imagining, with cars continuously breaking in and out of platoons. To realize what the company is pitching, Lewis says you’d need a complete revamp of the entire rail system.

“If [Parallel Systems] can bring in a couple people who have deep experience in operations planning…and sit with them for a day to go through how this would fit in the system, they’d probably come to some different conclusions about what they’ve got,” he said.

While the startup doesn’t employ any full-time railway operations specialists, Soule says Parallel Systems has brought in “veterans from the industry” who have helped them “understand the business.” He says safety is a top priority for the company; indeed, their vehicles would feature AI that would allow them to come to a stop quicker than traditional trains. No one is going to argue against safer trains—though most modern trains already come equipped with a system known as Positive Train Control, which autonomously prevents train-to-train collisions and other human errors.

Still, the 24-person firm is planning to hire heavily on the software side as it tries to figure out how to integrate its ambitious designs into the existing infrastructure. On the hardware side, Parallel Systems is working toward the second iteration of its prototype battery-electric rail vehicle, and testing it on a closed track in California.

“We’re going as fast as we can in terms of building the tech,” Soule said.

Parallel Systems Explainer Video Video via www.youtube.com

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